Saturday, August 27, 2005

Food and Camera

Monday, I had lunch at Moe's Southwestern grill with a bunch of former co-workers. That was fun and my Art Vandelay burrito was very good, albeit messy.

Wednesday, I went to the DBM career center for the last time. I went to "job club" and got to tell everyone about my new job. I also went to the networking lunch where they toasted my "landing" as well as the landing for three other former IBMers. The DBM career center has been a tremendously beneficial aspect of my severance package. Everyone that works there is incredibly friendly and they had plenty of advice. Anyone who has an opportunity to take advantage of their services should certainly do so. That afternoon I went over to the new job site to check out the facilities there to determine what modifications need to be made.

Thursday the main events were getting a panorex and going to Penang. G and DM saw us there and joined us, which made it more fun. That's the second time that's happened in the past year or two. I ordered chicken pineapple, which was way too hot for my tastes. My dad ordered the Penang shrimp curry that I had last time, which was still delicious. We also had roti canai for an appetizer.

Friday I got to have lunch at Pizza Hut, coffee at Shade Tree and take out from Chai's. You can see the chocolate tartlet that AE and I shared at Shade Tree. Friday was also exciting because my new Canon Powershot SD500 Digital Elph camera arrived. So far I am very pleased. Getting it to focus the way I want it to is somewhat challenging in part due to having more information. With my S300, if it was out of focus, I just tried again. With the 9 point auto focus, you can see exactly what it's doing so you can try to adjust it in such a way to increase the likelihood that it focuses on the subject. It is possible to switch it to manual most and make it just focus on the center. I'm still waiting for my 1 gig SD card to arrive, but I think I'm going to have a lot of fun with this camera. My previous camera, the s300 that died, was only 2 megapixels and this one is 7 megapixels. One may think that it's not necessary to have such high resolution if one isn't planning to print posters, but it does give you a lot more flexibility with cropping and therefore one's ability to select the composition. It's almost like being able to zoom with the lens. Here you can see my chives and a few other plants in my front yard.

Saturday, I went to the OCRA breakfast and then headed over to my parents to see FIFO and eat dinner. We also used my van to haul the matt board box that my dad recently finished building. It now lives in my studio.

This morning, my dad and I made a modified version of his crepe pancakes. This time we used half the number of eggs, six, 2 cups of milk, 1 1/3 cups of flour and a tablespoon of sugar. They were extremely good. If I recall correctly, his original recipe uses 1 dozen eggs, 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of water, 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 tablespoon of oil . We actually just forgot the oil in the modified version, but we probably had to add more to the pan due to that omission.

Today, I've been spending a lot of time watching the live coverage from WWL, in New Orleans. It looks as if there is going to be a complete catastrophe due to Hurricane Katrina. I can't imagine what it must be like for the people who did not have the means to evacuate.

One more news item is that my start date for my new job was moved to September 7th.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Celebrations with Food and Locopops

After all the decision making was over last week, it was time to celebrate. Thursday night, AE, GM, JH and I went to Chai's. I tried the Shrimp Chow Fun, which was ok. Afterwards we went to Shade Tree Coffee where we shared a delicious key lime pie from the Guglhupf bakery. It was very sour. I also tried a decaf cafe mocha smoothie, which was delicious.

Friday, AE, GM and I went to the Mellow Mushroom in the American Tobacco Historic District. They have extremely good pizza. We had a barbecue chicken pizza and a "Kosmic Karma", which has lots of good veggies and feta. It's a chain, but I was impressed. The district has changed quite a bit since I was there for the concert last October, because a lot of businesses have moved in, including several restaurants.

Later in the afternoon, I had to go to the bank and my father and I stopped at Locopops. Regular readers will know that I've been wanting to go there for a while. I bought a whole bunch of popsicles in all the flavors what I wanted to try. I'm relying on my memory, but the selection I bought included tamarind, hibiscus, mojito, peaches and cream, avacado, chocolate rosemary, nectarine orange, asian plum and lemon blueberry cream. I think I also got a coupe of others.
So far I've had the hibiscus (pictured here) and the mojito, which are both out of this world. I am a big red zinger fan, so I could easily become a hibiscus popsicle addict. Locopops was very popular on that hot afternoon. It's fantastic that they are doing so well and I hope they keep it up.

That night, CL met my parents and me for dinner at Taverna Nikos. That was a lot of fun. They had extra oysters from lunch, so I had fried ones over a village salad.

Saturday, GM, AE and EG came over. We watched four episodes of Doctor Who and two episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Doctor episodes were from the Pirate Planet, which was written by Douglas Adams. It had to have been over fifteen years since I'd seen any Doctor Who, so that was great. EG's husband was at the Pokemon World Championships, so she got to spend the whole day with us. Afterwords, we went to Vinny's for dinner and the Coffee Cafe for dessert. I tried a decaf iced cafe macchiato, which has espresso instead of coffee. I think I like a regular cafe mocha better, but it was good.

Sunday, I met JJ at Fowler's for lunch. We talked for several hours while eating huevos rancheros. It had eggs, tortillas, black beans, salsa, large chunks of perfectly ripe avacado and piles of shredded white cheddar cheese. It was an excellent meal. Surprisingly enough, that is a dish that I'd never ordered before.

Finally, that night, my parents and I went to ACME Food & Beverage Company. I had crab cakes and French fries. My mom had chicken with a wonderful blackberry sauce. I stole a spoonful and it was a surprisingly good dipping sauce for the French fries. For dessert, we shared peach cobbler. We hadn't been there for a while and it was nice for it to be my treat.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Search is Over

Last Tuesday, I had an on-site interview with SlickEdit and I spent much of the weekend prior to that preparing in some way. Of course, some of this preparation involved reading camera reviews and going out to eat, but if you've read much of this blog at all, that shouldn't be suprising to you.

SlickEdit really is a wonderful and very small company. They have a great product, which I used the entire five years that I was at IBM. I was certainly very impressed with them during my two phone interviews and I continued to be impressed in person. They were incredibly sharp, sensible and professional. One of the cool things about the interview was they had rapid fire technical questions, but I never felt once as if I were being interrogated. It was fun.

Then, on Wednesday, they made me an offer. Of course, I was thrilled! After barely over a month of unemployment, I finally had an offer! Then I found out that I had to make to make a life changing decision in a little over 24 hours. Unless you have been in a similar situation, you cannot imagine how stressful that was. It also put things in perspective. As much as I liked SlickEdit, I was then absolutely certain that I wanted to work for the Duke Center for Instructional Tecnology, where I interviewed at the beginning of August. Unfortunately, I was not expecting to hear of their decision until almost two weeks later. That evening, the Duke hiring manager called me back and said that he could let me know by Thursday whether or not I would receive an offer. I wouldn't know, however, how much would be offered. I wouldn't actually know whether or not I would be able to pay my bills. Minor detail.

Thursday, I had another on-site interview. Given the turmoil, I didn't feel nearly as prepared as I was for other interviews, but that was ok. SAS is simply gorgeous. They have a bunch of very modern buildings which are spread out and surrounded by trees. Their R&D building is more incredible than I ever imagined. It has a giant atrium with more than two story tall palm trees in it. It was full of all kinds of tropical plants. I have never seen anything like it. All the elevators have glass backs so you get a view as you are going up. I found a picture of the atrium on the web, but it doesn't do it justice. Between interviews, we had lunch in the atrium. Since we stayed there, I didn't get to see the infamous piano player, but that was perfectly ok. The food is highly subsidized and very good. I had pre-packaged chicken salad, fresh fruit and a jello cup. The chicken salad was excellent and the fruit was perfect. This normally costs a mere $2.25. Note that I did not photograph my meal during my interview.

Early Thursday evening, I was in the process asking for an extension on the SlickEdit decision when my call-waiting beeped. I then had an a definite and specific offer from Duke, which I accepted. I was so unbelievably happy.

I took this picture with my Treo 650 immediately following the on-site interivew for the position I accepted.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Sounds from the Mystery Rodent

On Monday, a crew came out to cut down my dead oak tree. It was a very stressful experience. Originally, the plan was to remove some plants in my flower bed, they would drive their bucket truck into the yard and then they would cut the top out of the tree. They decided it would be easier if they took out a small tree and they would pull it into the woods. It probably made sense, because it's been a little hot to move plants and the tires in the soil probably wouldn't have been too good. They attached the ropes using this giant slingshot type tool, which would be great for puttting up antennas.

Well, as you can see from the picture, the trunk slipped some off the base, making it a little trickier. Plus, the top got hung up in some of the other trees. The man in orange was definitely brave to be cutting when it was in such a precarious state. They ended up pulling it down using their truck. You can also see how well my eucalyptus tree is doing now.

While they were there they also got some branches down that had been hanging down over the parking pad. They had been swinging in the wind and I knew they were planning to fall on top of some unsuspecting visiting vehicle.
Afterwards, my mom and I went to Lubrano's, in Morrisville. It was good. I had their spinach ravioli in pink sauce, which included six large ravioli pieces, containing spinach and cheese. I'm a big ravioli fan, so it's hard to go wrong there.

After that, we went on our search for a Fidelity Investment Center. It was foolish of me not to check with something other than my phone to make sure that there actually still was an Investor Center somewhere in this portion of the state. I later found out that the closest one is in Charlotte! They used to have one in Durham and Raleigh. We did get to explore a nice section of Research Triangle Park, though. Actually, I also found out today that Fidelity is planning to consolidate their centers and one is opening in the vincinity of where I was looking, sometime in September. Unfortunately, that's a little too late for dealing with my retirement rollover.

That night, I went to an Orange County Radio Amateurs meeting. That wasn't too eventful, but we had a good crowd.

Last night I went to the Durham FM Association meeting. Both JH and GM came, which was great. I was elected secretary, which is hopefully a good thing. The other newsworthy item was that it was decided that should start meeting somewhere other than an eating establishment, because Fuddruckers is just too noisy and we don't have a room to ourselves. So much for milkshake dinners, but I think it's a step in the right direction.

A couple of nights ago, I heard this weird scrabbling sound in the guest bathroom. I guess I have a mystery rodent, either in the attic or the crawl space. I actually called my parents and suggested that my dad might want to come over. That's the first time I've done that since I moved in over a year ago and I think that's pretty good.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

No Levitation this Evening

I neglected to mention a few things in my last post.

We had a lightning storm during my phone interview on Friday and I seriously wondered if I were going to be struck by lightning while on the call. One strike even provoked me to say "yikes!". I did survive, as you might have noticed.

I also forgot to write all about my radiator problems. For the past several months, my dad had been noticing that he's had to provide my van with extra beverages. He thought perhaps there was a leak in the reserve tank. When I visited JJ and JA a few weeks ago, my van actually leaked anti-freeze over their new concrete. I was horrified. It was like my baby had spit up all over a new silk blouse. My dad took the van into Braxton Tire and they did a pressure test on it, but they didn't see any problems. They suggested that there was a part that expanded in the heat occasionally, but was perfectly normal. Well, last Tuesday, on the way to Oishii, we smelled a strong coolant smell. Sure enough, there was a leak in the radiator itself. I had my dad take it to Bull City Radiator the following day and they fixed it immediately.

Tonight JJ, JA and I went to Penang, in Chapel Hill. It's located where Pyewacket used to be, in the Courtyard, on Franklin Street. Pyewacket used to be my favorite restaurant and I still miss it a great deal. It just occurred to me that I should take a look at Anotherthyme, a relative of Pyewacket's. They do, indeed, have the same salad dressings! They are even for sale. I've missed the Lemon Tamari and the Umeboshi Plum. I haven't been there in a while and I don't know why I don't think of it more often.

So, Penang completely gutted the old Pyewacket location and it's barely recognizable. It does look cool, but it's not quite as elegant as it used to be. The food, however, was very good. We started off with roti canai, which was a big pancake with a delicious chicken curry sauce. We also had pork, chicken, shrimp and tofu pancake things with hoisin sauce and a sweet and sour type sauce. That was good. For my entree I had Penang curry with shrimp. That, too, had a delicious coconut curry sauce with large shrimp and vegetables. I have lots of leftover sauce to add to something in the next few days. The rice is not included with the meal, but it's recommended, which is odd. Of course, that gives you a choice and the coconut rice is better than the plain steamed version.

We debated what to do for dessert, because we could easily get something there or we could go somewhere else. We decided to use my Treo 650 and Google Local to find a dessert cafe. We saw the Inside Scoop and thought we knew where it was. After we drove there, we determined that we, in fact, did not. Ironically, this article mourns the loss of Pyewacket and announces the going out of business of the Inside Scoop in the same paragraph. I actuallyed passed its old location on my way to the erroneous one. We decided head to Caffe Driade.

We had a good time sitting on their back patio among their beautiful trees while drinking milkshakes and, in my case, a decaf cafe mocha with skim. I hadn't been there in many years. The last time I was there, I had my first and hopefully only experience with two shots of espresso in mocha coffee. I uncomfortably levitated back home that day. Decaf is much more enjoyable by comparison.

Where do you plan to be in five years?

What a week! I had four interviews. Considering the time and energy I put into preparing for them, it was a lot of work.

Sunday, I went over to Duke campus check out the location of an interview. That night, I went out to dinner at George's Garage with JJ, JA and EB. I had a dragon roll and gyoza dumplings. Their gyoza dumplings were rather small and not nearly as good as Chai's or Oishii. Afterwards, we went to Francesca's for ice cream. I got lemon sorbetto, which was nice and sour, as always.
Monday, I had an interview with a small local company. It went rather well and lasted two hours.

Tuesday, I had an on-site interview at the Duke library. I had a great time, but it sure was exhausting after four hours. As much as I like interviewing, they are still stressful. I got to go through Special Collections to avoid using an ancient elevator, which I appreciated tremendously. That night, my parents and I went to Oishii and I had exactly the same meal as at George's. It was excellent.

Wednesday, I went over to the career center for "job club" and a "networking lunch". They provide lunch and this week it was interesting, because we had all sorts of mayonnaise based dishes, including chicken salad, potato salad, coleslaw and something with cheese that I couldn't identify. This was the first time I'd been to one of the networking lunches, although I grabbed pizza at the end of one several weeks ago.

Thursday, I had a phone interview with SAS. Everyone at the career center was excited about that when I told them the previous day. It's just so hard to get an interview there, especially without a referral.

Friday, I had yet another phone interview with same company as Monday and that went really well, too.

This morning, I went to the Orange County Radio Amateurs breakfast. We had a good crowd.